Thursday, December 15, 2016

Review: Aurora Optima Fountain Pen - Italic @AndersonPens @KenroPens

Thank you kindly to Aurora, Kenro, and Anderson Pens for making this review possible!
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ABOUT


Body Material: Auroloide/antique celluloid, resin
Trim: Chrome
Nib material: 14kt gold, rhodium-plated
Cap: Screw on
Posts: Yes, friction
Length (capped): 127.2 mm/5.00"
Length (uncapped nib-end): 122.5 mm/4.82"
Length (posted):152.9 mm/6.02"
Barrel Diameter: 11.8 - 13.8 mm/0.46" - 0.54"
Section Diameter: 10.5 - 11.8 mm/0.41" - 0.46"
Weight (all): 20 g
Weight (cap): 6 g
Weight (body): 14 g
Fill type: Piston with hidden ink reservoir
Price: $445.50 USD
Where to buy: Anderson Pens
Aurora x AP


PACKAGING


This Aurora Optima was presented in an Aurora-branded box with a large, black clamshell box inside. The clamshell box has a leathery feeling to it, and the Aurora logo is on the top. The inside of the box is a cream colored leather-like material. There is a lot of Aurora branding on this so far.
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The bed is removable. The pen was placed on the bed, secured by a ribbon. A small plaque on the bed indicates:
Pennino oro massiccio
14 kt
Solid gold nib
The pen came with an Aurora booklet, which includes company details - history, pen, information, instructions for best use, filling, etc. This booklet has a lot of useful information that can be beneficial to new users in particular, so if you are unsure, give it a look.
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There was a lot of packaging for such a small pen. It's classy but I don't find it particularly unique, and it's a lot of packaging to save. I have weird box standards, and I dislike keeping packaging, so your miles may vary.

APPEARANCE


I haven't used many Aurora pens, but it's not because I have not been attracted to them. The main thing holding me back was that I didn't really want another fine/medium nib that is often the standard Aurora fare in pen stores around here.
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This Optima is on the smaller side, but it has a classy design and the size looks good. I can't picture this as an oversize! It is a round flat-top pen with a black piston turning knob and finial. The clip is attached by a metal ring around the top of the cap. I like the shape of Aurora's clips - they are smooth and curvy, and they end in a teardrop shape. There are no markings on the outside, but the inside is engraved with "METAL". It's not a fancy clip but I think it complements the shape of the pen.
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There is a wide center band on the end of the cap. The center has a ridged engraving around it, with "Aurora" also engraved on it. There is a black key design on the top and bottom, flanking the ridges. It's a pretty ornate center band for this pen, which may or may not appeal to you. I think it suits the pen well enough, and it also adds some structural reinforcement to the end of the cap.
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The section is pretty long for a smaller pen. It tapers slightly towards the nib and ends in a flared ridge. There are resin threads at the back of the section, followed by a clear, double-walled ink window. The ink window is only visible when the pen is uncapped.
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The cap and barrel were created using antique celluloid materials. I don't know what that means exactly, but the result is a beautiful burgundy red auroloide, flecked with varying shades and colors - reds, burgundy, black, and some shimmer and depth. It isn't an in-your-face color - I find it more subtle and it is quite pretty, especially in sunlight. The black ends and chrome trim gives the warmth of the red cap and barrel a cooler look overall. I would have preferred to see the pen without the black accents. The barrel is engraved with: Fabrica di penne a / Italiana Sertbatolo, with Aurora Italiana in the middle. It blends in as the engraving is not filled, but it's so much writing that it sort of fills the whole side of the barrel. I'm not sure if I like that.
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I don't mind the shape of the pen so much, but I do prefer rounded ends instead of flat tops. The color is great, and if you don't like gold furniture, this is perfect. If you don't like the burgundy red, there are other colors that are quite stunning, not to mention Aurora's limited editions. Upon close inspection, the pen looked well made - no nicks or rough edges, and seams were snug. There is a lot of chrome trim to my eye (on the ink window, piston-turning knob) that feels like it's filling gaps, but I don't know if that's the case.

NIB & PERFORMANCE


I mentioned the nibs when I first started: Aurora nibs tend to be hard and offer a fair amount of feedback. Not at all a negative writing experience (I mean, it's not like they don't work), but you have to like the way it feels. I have used the whole nib range, and this italic here is definitely one of my preferred Aurora nibs.

This is a rhodium-plated solid 14kt gold nib, coupled with an ebonite feed. The nib has a single slit, a round breather hole, and is engraved with some symmetrical flourishes, 14K, 585, and Aurora. There does not appear to be a nib size indicated on the nib itself, but the feeds are usually marked. The italic is a special order, and is totally worth it.
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This is a wet writer - definitely on the juicy side with longer than average drying times as a result. There is some feedback, but it does not feel scratchy, it's just that Aurora feedback. It's not a super smooth writer, but it's properly aligned and tuned, so it writes well. No skips, no hard starts. Without any pressure, the nib writes with the weight of the pen. Adding a small amount of pressure adds a little more line variation to the wide down strokes, and offers a touch more shading of your ink, however, it won't last too long. Believe it or not, this italic works quite well for reverse writing, although it's still wide! It is quite smooth with the same line variation as with regular writing, but it's a little less wet. The italic nib produces wide downstrokes and clean, crisp cross strokes without feeling sharp. This italic is forgiving in that it doesn't cut into the paper as I write, but line variation is precise and crisp enough to give you a fun and functional nib.
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I wish I could have gotten this nib on the Aurora Mar Adriatico - I would have been inclined to keep it. The writing experience with this nib is positive and enjoyable. I love using it for writing letters as the wetness brings out the shading in my inks, and the line variation adds character and flair to my writing. I also love to practice calligraphy with it - it's a luxurious way to master those alphabets! 

Aurora piston-fillers have a hidden ink reservoir in the piston seal. There's a small chamber that holds a little extra ink, which can be accessed by turning the knob all the way down to the feed. This will push the ink through. The downside to this is it makes cleaning the pen a bit tricky, as you have to make sure you have expelled that ink. 
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IN HAND


The clip is pretty snug, but can be lifted for use. The ball holds the pen pretty securely, so the clip can be used to hold your pen on papers, in a pocket, and in a pouch. The size of the pen makes it easy to tote around because it fits in the average pen case.

The section is long and I suspect it would be fairly comfortable for most hands. The threads are really smooth and there are no sharp ridges. The material of the section is smooth as well, so I do find it feels a little slippery after awhile. Fortunately, the ridge at the front ensures my fingers stay off the nib. When it feels slippery, I just give it a quick wipe down. It's not a big deal - it's not so slippery that the pen is hard to hold.
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Unposted, the pen is on the short side, and it's light in hand. It's comfortable for me, but larger hands will likely prefer the pen posted. The cap posts snugly and securely by friction, and it it is a usable, comfortable length even when posted. It's well balanced and it sits well. For calligraphy practice, I prefer the pen unposted as I can focus more on forming my letters, and I can shift the pen in hand to adjust my writing grip as I create each letter form.
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Another thing I love? Cleaning. Why? The nib units can be unscrewed easily for flushing the barrel. Makes clean up much easier, especially considering the hidden ink reservoir.


PROS & CONS


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OVERALL


The Optima has a nice design with a pretty cap and barrel. The chrome trim is cool, but provides a nice accent to the deep reds. The pen is on the smaller side (reminds me of a Sailor Pro Gear), and I can use it comfortably. If you have large hands, it may be worth trying it out first, but it can be posted. This pen is not heavy, so if you like heavy pens in hand, you won't feel it here. The italic nib is great; it performs well and is easy to use for daily writing and truly luxurious calligraphy practice.  No hand fatigue! I love the nib, but I prefer the Aurora 88 for the streamline shape. 

What do you think? Solid gold nib, solid box, ebonite feed, piston-filler, large range of nibs available, nibs can be removed/changed... not bad. 

If you are interested in an Optima, Anderson Pens carries a large selection!

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This is a sponsored post, but there are no affiliate links in this review. I was compensated monetarily for my time, but I have been as honest as possible in this review about this pen.

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GourmetPens by Azizah Asgarali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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